The Coasters are an American rhythm and blues/rock and roll vocal group who had a string of hits in the late 1950s. Beginning with "Searchin'" and "Young Blood", their most memorable songs were written by the songwriting and producing team of Leiber and Stoller. Although the Coasters originated outside of mainstream doo-wop, their records were so frequently imitated that they became an important part of the doo-wop legacy through the 1960s.
The Coasters, 1957
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|Associated acts||The Robins|
The Coasters were formed on October 12, 1955 when only two of The Robins were willing to go to Atlantic Records, those two were dubbed The Coasters because they went from West to East coast. The Robins were a Los Angeles–based rhythm-and-blues group that included Carl Gardner and Bobby Nunn. The original Coasters were Gardner, Nunn, Billy Guy, Leon Hughes (who was replaced by Young Jessie on a couple of their early Los Angeles recordings), and the guitarist Adolph Jacobs. Jacobs left the group in 1959.
The songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller started Spark Records and in 1955 produced "Smokey Joe's Cafe" for the Robins (their sixth single with Leiber and Stoller). The record was popular enough for Atlantic Records to offer Leiber and Stoller an independent production contract to produce the Robins for Atlantic. Only two of the Robins—Gardner and Nunn—were willing to make the move to Atlantic, recording their first songs in the same studio as the Robins had done (Master Recorders). In late 1957, the group moved to New York and replaced Nunn and Hughes with Cornell Gunter and Will "Dub" Jones. The new quartet was from then on stationed in New York, although all had Los Angeles roots.
The Coasters' association with Leiber and Stoller was an immediate success. Together they created a string of good-humored "storytelling" hits that are some of the most entertaining from the original era of rock and roll. According to Leiber and Stoller, getting the humor to come through on the records often required more recording "takes" than for a typical musical number.
Their first single, "Down in Mexico", was an R&B hit in 1956 and appears (in a re-recording from 1973 – still with Gardner singing the lead) on the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. The following year, the Coasters crossed over to the pop chart in a big way with the double-sided "Young Blood"/"Searchin'". "Searchin'" was the group's first U.S. Top 10 hit and topped the R&B chart for 13 weeks, becoming the biggest R&B single of 1957 (all were recorded in Los Angeles).
"Yakety Yak" (recorded in New York), featuring King Curtis on tenor saxophone, included the famous lineup of Gardner, Guy, Jones, and Gunter, and became the act's only national number one single, topping the R&B chart. The next single, "Charlie Brown", reached number two on both charts. It was followed by "Along Came Jones", "Poison Ivy" (number 1 for almost two months on the R&B chart), and "Little Egypt (Ying-Yang)".
Changing popular tastes and changes in the group's lineup contributed to a lack of hits in the 1960s. During this time, Billy Guy was also working on solo projects; the New York singer Vernon Harrell was brought in to replace him for stage performances. Later members included Earl "Speedo" Carroll (lead of the Cadillacs), Ronnie Bright (the bass voice on Johnny Cymbal's "Mr. Bass Man"), Jimmy Norman, and guitarist Thomas "Curley" Palmer. The Coasters signed with Columbia Records' Date label in 1966, reuniting with Leiber and Stoller (who had parted ways with Atlantic Records in 1963), but never regained their former fame. In 1971, the Coasters had a minor chart entry with "Love Potion No. 9", a song that Leiber and Stoller had written for the Coasters but instead gave to the Clovers in 1959. In Britain, a 1994 Volkswagen TV advertisement used the group's "Sorry But I'm Gonna Have to Pass", which led to a minor chart placement in that country.
In 1987, the Coasters became the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, crediting the members of the 1958 configuration. The Coasters also joined the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999.
Several groups used the name in the 1970s, touring throughout the country, though original member Carl Gardner held the legal rights to it. Gardner continued to tour with the Coasters and made many attempts to stop bogus groups with no connection to the original group using the name. In late 2005, Carl's son Carl Gardner Jr. took over as lead with the group when his father retired. The Coasters' lineup then consisted of Carl Gardner Jr., J. W. Lance, Primo Candelara, and Eddie Whitfield. Carl Jr. later left this group and has started his own group with Curley Palmer. Carl's widow Veta owns the rights to the Coasters name.
Leon Hughes is the last surviving member of the original Coasters and performs with his own group. Some of the former members suffered tragic ends. The saxophonist King Curtis (the "fifth Coaster") was stabbed to death by two junkies outside his apartment building in 1971. Cornelius Gunter was shot to death while sitting in a Las Vegas parking garage in 1990. Nate Wilson, a member of one of Gunter's offshoot Coasters groups, was shot and his body dismembered in 1980.
Former manager Patrick Cavanaugh was convicted of the murder, which took place after Wilson threatened to notify authorities of Cavanaugh's intent to buy furniture with stolen checks. Cavanaugh was convicted of the murder and given the death sentence in 1984, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison. He died at 60 in 2006, in Ely State Prison, in Nevada.
The Coasters continue to appear regularly on "oldies" shows and PBS specials as old favorites and are available for bookings.
Carl Gardner published his autobiography, Carl Gardner: Yakety Yak I Fought Back: My Life with the Coasters, in 2007.
The Coasters' recordings produced by Leiber and Stoller for Date/King (1966–1972) were released on the CD Down Home by Varèse Vintage (Varèse Sarabande) in 2007. The complete Atco recordings (1954–1966) were released in a four-CD set, There's a Riot Goin' On: The Coasters on Atco, by Rhino, also in 2007.
- Current members
- J. W. Lance – lead vocals, previously tenor vocals (July 2001–present)
- Primotivo Candelaria – baritone vocals (October 2008–present)
- Robert Fowler – bass vocals (January 2015 – present)
- Dennis Anderson – tenor vocals (June 2011–present)
- Former members
(Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductees listed in bold.)
- 1957: The Coasters - Atco LP 33-101
- 1959: The Coasters' Greatest Hits - Atco LP 33-111 (SD33-111 rechanneled stereo 1960)
- 1960: The Coasters One by One - Atco LP 33-123 (SD33-123 stereo)
- 1962: Coast Along with The Coasters - Atco LP 33-135 (SD33-135 alternate stereo edition)
- 1965: That Is Rock & Roll - Clarion LP 605 (SD-605 stereo)
- 1971: Their Greatest Recordings: The Early Years - Atco LP SD33-371 (stereo compilation with alternates)
- 1972: The Coasters on Broadway - King LP KS1146 (stereo)
- 1975: 16 Greatest Hits - Trip TOP LP 16-7 (ten revival re-recordings + six Billy Guy-recordings)
- 1982: Young Blood - Atlantic DeLuxe LP AD 2-4003 (mono)
The hits list below is from Joel Whitburn's Top R&B Singles and from the Pop positions published in Bill Millar's book The Coasters (1975).
|Month of chart entry||Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
|Peak chart positions||Album|
|Billboard Pop Chart||Cash Box Pop Chart||Billboard R&B chart||UK Singles Chart||AUS|
|3/1956||"Down in Mexico"
b/w "Turtle Dovin'"
|9/1956||"One Kiss Led to Another"
|11/1957||"Idol with the Golden Head"
b/w "(When She Wants Good Lovin') My Baby
Comes to Me" (on 50 Coastin' Classics CD)
|64||-||-||-||-||That Is Rock & Roll|
|11/1957||"Sweet Georgia Brown"
b/w "What Is the Secret of Your Success" (on 50 Coastin' Classics)
|-||-||-||-||-||The Coasters' Greatest Hits|
b/w "Gee Golly" (on The Coasters on Atco CD)
|-||-||-||-||-||That Is Rock & Roll|
b/w "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart"
|1||1||1||12||13||The Coasters' Greatest Hits|
|8/1958||"The Shadow Knows"
b/w "Sorry But I'm Gonna Have to Pass" (on 50 Coastin' Classics)
b/w "Three Cool Cats" (on That Is Rock & Roll album)
|5/1959||"Along Came Jones"
b/w "That Is Rock & Roll"
|9/1959||"I'm a Hog for You"||38||95||-||-||-|
|12/1959||"Run Red Run"||36||51||29||-||93||Coast Along|
|1/1960||"What About Us"||47||33||17||-||93|
|4/1960||"Bésame Mucho" (Part 1) b/w Part 2 (Non-album track)||70||53||-||-||-||50 Coastin' Classics CD|
|6/1960||"Wake Me, Shake Me"
|9/1960||"Clothes Line (Wrap It Up)" (Non-album track, poss a bootleg of below) b/w "The Snake and the Book Worm"||-||-||-||-||-|
|10/1960||"Shoppin' for Clothes"
b/w "The Snake and the Book Worm" (on Coast Along)
|83||57||-||-||-||Their Greatest Recordings: The Early Years|
|2/1961||"Wait a Minute"
b/w "Thumbin' a Ride" (on 50 Coastin' Classics CD)
|5/1961||"Little Egypt (Ying-Yang)"
b/w "Keep on Rolling"
|8/1961||"Girls Girls Girls" (Part II) (Hit side, non-album track)
b/w Part I
b/w "(Ain't That) Just Like Me"
|3/1962||"Teach Me How to Shimmy" (on 50 Coastin' Classics CD)
b/w "Ridin' Hood"
|9/1962||"The Climb" (on That Is Rock & Roll album)
b/w "The Climb" (Instrumental)
b/w "Bull Tick Waltz"
|3/1964||"T'Ain't Nothin' to Me"
b/w "Speedo's Back in Town"
|5/1964||"Bad Detective" (on 50 Coastin' Classics CD)
b/w "Lovey Dovey"
b/w "I Must Be Dreaming"
b/w "Hongry" (on 50 Coastin' Classics CD)
b/w "Let's Go Get Stoned"
|10/1965||"Bell Bottom Slacks and a Chinese Kimono"
b/w "Crazy Baby"
|3/1966||"She's a Yum Yum"
b/w "Saturday Night Fish Fry"
b/w "Down Home Girl" (on Young Blood)
b/w "Everybody's Woman"
|7/1968||"D.W. Washburn" (on Young Blood)
b/w "Everybody's Woman"
b/w "The World Is Changing"
|12/1971||"Love Potion Number Nine" (on Young Blood)
b/w "D.W. Washburn"
b/w "D.W. Washburn"
b/w "Talkin' About a Woman" ("She Can" On Date)
|8/1994||"Sorry But I'm Gonna Have to Pass"
b/w "Poison Ivy"
|-||-||-||41||-||The Very Best of The Coasters|
Non-charting singles include month and year of release. All Atco recordings above issued on There's a Riot Goin' On: The Coasters on Atco CD.
Three of the Cash Box pop entry dates slightly differ (by a week or two – either way; e.g. "Yakety Yak" entered the Cash Box Pop Chart in May). UK chart entry dates also differ from US chart entry dates.
* "T'Ain't Nothin' to Me" R&B position is from Cash Box since Billboard did not publish an R&B chart in 1964. The Date sides were reissued on King singles and on On Broadway.
Lineups from the US singles
The line-ups are presented for general overview and do not always fit with issue dates.
Label and catalog number followed by month/year of issue, and by track titles (with lead and recording dates).
The Robins (only singles featuring Carl Gardner are listed)
(Carl Gardner, Bobby Nunn, "Ty" Terrell Leonard, Billy Richard, Roy Richard, Grady Chapman)
leads: CG-Gardner; BN-Nunn; GC-Chapman; RB-Richard Berry (guest lead) (Los Angeles)
- Spark 103 6/54 - Riot in Cell Block #9 (RB ca 3/54) / Wrap It Up (BN,CG ca 3/54)
- Spark 107 10/54 - Loop De Loop Mambo (CG 8/54) / Framed (BN 8/54)
- Spark 110 2/55 - If Teardrops Were Kisses (CG, 2/54) / Whadaya Want? (GC 2/54)
- Spark 113 4/55 - One Kiss (CG 8/54) / I Love Paris (GC 2/54)
- Spark 116 6/55 - I Must Be Dreamin (CG 8/54) / The Hatchet Man (BN 2/54)
- Spark 122 9/55 - Smokey Joe's Cafe (CG prob 7/7/55) / Just Like a Fool (CG prob 7/7/55)
- Atco 6059 10/55 - Smokey Joe's Cafe (CG) / Just Like a Fool (CG) - reissue
(all of the above later issued on EP, LP, and CD compilations as The Coasters).
The Coasters (all "true"/legal Coasters singles are listed)
(Carl Gardner, Bobby Nunn, Billy Guy, Leon Hughes)
leads: CG-Gardner; BN-Nunn; BG-Guy (Los Angeles, Chicago*, New York**)
- Atco 6064 2/56 - Down in Mexico (CG 1/11/56) / Turtle Dovin' (CG 1/11/56)
- Atco 6073 7/56 - One Kiss Led to Another (CG 1/11/56) / Brazil (CG, BN, BG 1/11/56)
- Atco 6087 3/57 - Young Blood (CG 2/15/57) / Searchin' (BG 2/15/57)
- Atco 6098 8/57 - Idol with the Golden Head (CG 7/24/57*) / (When She Wants Good Lovin') My Baby Comes To Me (BG 7/24/57*)
- Atco 6104 11/57 - Sweet Georgia Brown (CG, BG, BN 2/12/57) / What Is the Secret Of Your Success? (BG 7/24/57*)
- Atco 6111 1/58 - Gee, Golly (BG 12/4/57**) / Dance! (CG 12/4/57**)
(Gardner, Guy, Will Jones, Cornell Gunter)
leads: CG-Gardner; BG-Guy; WJ-Jones, CoG-Gunter (New York)
- Atco 6116 4/58 - Yakety Yak (CG, BG 3/17/58) / Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart (WJ, CoG 3/17/58)
- Atco 6126 8/58 - The Shadow Knows (BG 8/8/58) / Sorry But I'm Gonna Have to Pass (WJ 8/8/58)
- Atco 6132 1/59 - Charlie Brown (unison 12/11/58) / Three Cool Cats (CG 3/17/58)
- stereo version of Charlie Brown on SD 6132 has CG, CoG separated in stereo
- Atco 6141 5/59 - Along Came Jones (joint leads 3/26/59) / That Is Rock & Roll (CG, BG, WJ 3/26/59)
- Atco 6146 8/59 - Poison Ivy (CG,BG 7/16/59) / I'm A Hog For You (unison 8/8/58, edited 7/17/59)
- Atco 6153 11/59 - What About Us (unison 7/16/59) / Run Red Run (BG 7/23/59)
- Atco 6163 3/60 - Besame Mucho (Part I) (WJ 2/26/60) / Besame Mucho (Part II) (unison backing vcls 2/26/60)
- Atco 6168 6/60 - Wake Me, Shake Me (BG 2/26/60) / Stewball (BG 3/17/58)
- Atco 6178 9/60 - Shoppin' for Clothes (BG, WJ 7/29/60) / The Snake and the Book Worm (CG, BG 2/26/60)
- A-side also issued as Clothes Line (Wrap It Up)
- Atco 6186 1/61 - Wait a Minute (BG 12/4/57) / Thumbin' a Ride (CG 7/29/60)
- Atco 6192 4/61 - Little Egypt (Ying-Yang) (BG 2/9/61) / Keep on Rolling (CG,CoG 2/26/60)
- Atco 6204 8/61 - Girls Girls Girls (Part I) (BG 2/9/61) / Girls Girls Girls (Part II) (BG 2/9/61)
(Gardner, Guy, Jones, Earl Carroll)
leads: CG-Gardner; BG-Guy; WJ-Jones; EC-Carroll (New York, Los Angeles*)
- Atco 6210 11/61 - (Ain't That) Just Like Me (BG 9/25/61) / Bad Blood CG (9/25/61)
- Atco 6219 2/62 - Ridin' Hood (unison 12/7/60*) / Teach Me How to Shimmy (BG 4/10/61*)
- Atco 6234 9/62 - The Climb (vocal) (WJ 7/31/62) / The Climb (instrumental) (7/31/62)
- Atco 6251 1/63 - The P.T.A. (BG 1/11/63) / Bull Tick Waltz (BG 7/31/62)
- Atco 6287 2/64 - T'Ain't Nothin' to Me (BG, WJ 11/16/63) / Speedo's Back in Town (EC 11/16/63)
- Atco 6300 5/64 - Bad Detective (BG 12/17/63) / Lovey Dovey (CG 12/17/63)
- Atco 6321 10/64 - Wild One (BG 8/28/64) / I Must Be Dreaming (BG,CG 8/28/64)
- Atco 6341 2/65 - Lady Like (unison 2/26/60) / Hongry (BG 4/10/61*)
- Atco 6356 5/65 - Let's Go Get Stoned (BG 4/21/65) / Money Honey (unison 4/21/65)
- Atco 6379 9/65 - Crazy Baby (BG 4/21/65, edited 9/8/65) / Bell Bottom Slacks and a Chinese Kimono (She's My Little Spodee-O) (CG 4/21/65, edited 9/8/65)
- Atco 6407 3/66 - She's a Yum Yum (unison 1/26/66) / Saturday Night Fish Fry (BG 1/26/66)
- Date 1552 3/67 - Soul Pad (BG, EC 11/18/66) / Down Home Girl (BG 11/18/66)
- Date 1607 5/68 - She Can (BG, CG, EC 10/30/67) / Everybody's Woman (EC 10/30/67)
- Date 1617 7/68 - D.W. Washburn (BG, CG 10/31/67) / Everybody's Woman (EC 10/30/67)
(Gardner, Guy, Carroll, Ronnie Bright)
- Turntable 504 1969 - Act Right (BG 69) / The World Is Changing (EC 69)
- King 6385 11/71 - Love Potion Number Nine (CG 2/13/68, ed. late 71) / D.W. Washburn (BG,CG 10/31/67)
- King 6389 4/72 - Cool Jerk (CG late 71) / Talkin' 'Bout a Woman (BG, CG, EC; act. She Can 10/30/67)
- King 6404 1973 - Soul Pad (BG, EC 11/18/66) / D.W. Washburn (BG, CG 10/31/67)
Carl Gardner & The Coasters
(Gardner, Carroll, Bright, Jimmy Norman)
- Wicked 8103 1976 - Hush Don't Talk About It (CG ca 76) / The World Keeps on Turning (EC ca 76)
Free Soul / Beautifully Day released 11/15/2010 by Carl Gardner Jr. Through tunecore
- 1986 - The Ultimate Coasters - Warner Special Products 27604 (stereo)
- 1987 - The Coasters - 20 Greatest Hits - Highland Music DCD-7786 (rerecorded in stereo)
- 1989 - The Coasters' Greatest Hits - Atco 33111-2 (reissue of LP, with a couple of tracks in stereo) - reissued on Hallmark
- 1991 - Poison Ivy - The Best of The Coasters - Atlantic CD 82313-2 (20 tracks - withdrawn)
- 1992 - 50 Coastin' Classics (2CD-set) - Rhino R2 71090 (mono)
- 1994 - The Very Best of The Coasters - Rhino R2 71597 (mono) - reissued 2008
- 1996 - Golden Hits - Masters 1127 (the Trip revivals, stereo - uncountable reissues on several labels)
- 2004 - The Coasters / One by One - Collectables COL-CD-7656 (2LPs on 1CD - "One by One" in stereo) - (a 2011 European issue on Hoodoo 263387 contains the same tracks plus three bonus tracks and a 16-page booklet)
- 2005 - Coast Along with The Coasters - Collectables COL-CD-6523 (reissue of stereo LP)
- 2005 - 16 Greatest Hits - Audio Passport CD-1018 (reissue of Trip LP)
- 2007 - Down Home - Varèse Sarabande/Vintage CD 302066844-2 (the "On Broadway" tracks, stereo)
- 2007 - There's a Riot Goin' on: The Coasters on Atco (4CD-set) - Rhino Handmade RHM2 7740 (the complete Atco recordings, 113 tracks; several stereo masters)
- 2008 - The Definitive Soul Collection (2CD-set) - Rhino 132092 (withdrawn; 30 mono pop hits)
Important British public-domain compilations
- 2013 - The Definitive Coasters - A Sides & B Sides (Hits and Bonus Tracks) - History of RnB R001
(Complete recordings 1954-1962) 61 tracks with extended Coasters history
- 2013 - Those Hoodlum Friends - The Coasters in Stereo (Outtakes, Stereo Versions and Album Tracks) - History of RnB R002
(Alternate stereo takes and album tracks 1957-1962) 49 tracks including never before issued outtakes, with detailed discographical info
- 2016 - The Complete Singles As & Bs (1954–62) - Acrobat 2-CD-set ADDCD3180, 56 tracks with nice inlay booklet (including discography)
True Coasters recordings (not on single)
No live recordings included (Note: there also are several alternates and edited masters of the singles, not listed below).
Recorded in New York unless otherwise indicated.
Lead singers: Carl Gardner (CG), Billy Guy (BG), Will "Dub" Jones (WJ), Ronnie Bright (RB), Jimmy Norman (JN).
- 1957 "Lola" (CG 2/12/57 L.A.) - Atco LP 33-101 The Coasters
- 1958 "Three Cool Cats" (alternate arrangement CG 3/17/58) - Rhino Handmade RHM2 7740 The Coasters on Atco
- 1958 "Crocodile" (unison 8/8/58) - Rhino Handmade RHM2 7740 and alternates on later CDs
- 1958 "I'm a Hog for You" (with several different versions on later CDs-unison 8/8/58) - Rhino Handmade RHM2 7740
- 1958 "Hey Sexy" (unison 12/11/58) - Rhino CD R2 71090 50 Coastin´ Classics
- 1958 "Sexy (Hey Sexy)" (CG 12/11/58) - Rhino Handmade RHM2 7740
- 1959 "That Is Rock & Roll" (edited version, WJ 3/26/59) - Atco LP SD 33-371 Their Greatest Recordings - The Early Years
- 1960 "The Snake and the Bookworm" (unison version 2/26/60) - Atco LP SD 33-135 Coast Along with The Coasters (only the stereo album)
- 1960 The Coasters One by One - Atco LP 33-123 (stereo SD33-123) (6/13&15/60) - 12 jazz/pop standards
- 1961 "My Babe" (BG 9/25/61) - Atco LP SD 33-135
- 1962 "The Slime" (WJ 7/31/62) - Clarion LP SD-605 That Is Rock & Roll (alternate of "The Climb", act. titled so on the album)
- 1967 "Mohair Sam" (unison 10/30/67) - King LP 1146 The Coasters on Broadway
- 1968 "Down at Papa Joe's" (unison 2/12/68) King LP 1146
- 1968 "Shake 'Em Up and Let 'Em Roll" (lead: Jerry Leiber 2/13/68) - Rhino CD R2 71090
- 1971 "Mustang Sally" (BG late 71) - King LP 1146
- 1971 "On Broadway" (CG late 71) - King LP 1146
- 1971 "The in Crowd" (CG late 71) - King LP 1146
- 1973 The Coasters - 16 Greatest Hits (featuring 10 re-recordings with CG and JN, leads ca 73) - Trip LP TOP 16-7
- 1977 "Check Mr. Popeye" (RB 77) - Epic LP PE-34668 (various artists with Southside Johnny)
- "Show 13 – Big Rock Candy Mountain: Rock 'n' Roll in the Late Fifties. [Part 3] : UNT Digital Library". Digital.library.unt.edu. 1969. Retrieved 2011-01-09.
- "News – Ex-Coasters Manager Dies at Ely State Prison". reviewjournal.com. 2006-04-11. Archived from the original on 2011-02-21. Retrieved 2011-01-09.
- Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 139. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
- Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 38.
- Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 92. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.